This stunningly easy recipe comes from a wonderful cook and friend, Hristina, who lives in Hobart and harvests and pits her own cherries in the Huon Valley every January. If you’re using frozen cherries, let them half-defrost only before using, as they will leach too much juice into the pastry. I used a packet of filo pastry and made three strudels each to serve about four people. Hristinas's recipe is based on the traditional strudel, or layered pastry with a sweet filling, that became popular around eastern Europe in the eighteenth century. Instead of using traditional handmade and stretched dough (that by legend should be thin enough for a love letter to be read through), Hristina’s uses filo pastry, which can be easily bought in most supermarkets around Australia.
- 6 sheets filo pastry
- grapeseed oil, for drizzling
- 110 g (½ cup) caster sugar
- 150 g fresh or frozen pitted cherries (see Note)
- 1 tbsp semolina
- icing sugar, for dusting
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Working really fast with the filo pastry, lay out a sheet with the short edge towards you and use a spoon held vertically in the oil then twizzle about, to just dribble and spot a bit of the oil "” not a whole lot. Sprinkle evenly but quickly with about 1 tablespoon of the caster sugar.
Lay the next sheet 2–3 cm to the right of the first so it overhangs. Oil and sugar as before. Use the next sheet 2–3 cm to the left of the original, and oil and sugar, too. These overhanging bits will fold in to hold the cherries in the strudel. Lay the next three sheets of filo on top of the original sheet, one by one, oiling and sugaring as you go.
Scatter the cherries over the one-third of the pastry closest to you, leaving the little bit of pastry on the edges without cherries. Sprinkle the cherries with the semolina and roll, starting with the base closest to you and folding in the 2–3 cm edges at the same time, so the cherries don’t escape. Roll tightly until the strudel is completely rolled up, with the loose edge right underneath.
Brush the top with a tiny bit of oil and transfer to a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 20–35 minutes, or until well browned. The trick Hristina taught me was to press the pastry and feel it crisp in layers, not soft and squashy under the surface, to know if it’s done.
Cool well, slice, then dredge with icing sugar and serve. The strudel is crisp the same day. The next day the pastry will soften, but be just as good.
• Sour cherries are best for this recipe. They can be found in some specialist orchards. Alternatively, morello cherries could be used.
Also try Matthew's roast pork with homemade apple sauce from this episode of Gourmet Farmer.